Stripping kitchen cabinets

by mark | 28 Sep 2019

Our built-in-place cabinets from 1946 had some paint problems. There was latex paint over old lead paint – the latex didn’t adhere well and would peel off and sometimes take a chip of old paint with it. Not good for kids. The cabinets are otherwise in good shape, and with the new countertop it makes more sense to strip and repaint than replace. We ordered 2 gallons of Dumond Smart Strip.

Drawers and doors removed, floor masked:

First coat on and papered. We didn’t bother stripping the vertical face under the sink since it’s new plywood from when the dishwasher was added a year ago. (The purpose of the paper is to keep the chemical stripper from drying out too soon. Dumond says the Smart Strip can be left for up to 24 hours even without paper, but we decided to use the paper anyway).

Drawers set up in the garage. We had bought 1 pack of the Dumond paper, but it turns out we would have needed many, many more packs. They’re not cheap. Wax paper worked just as well and is cheap, though was a bit trickier to apply in the corners.

We spent several hours scraping the first coat off. There were lots of places where not all the paint came off, with some original gray and blue paint stuck on forming islands. We tried to get these islands off with the scraper because we thought it’d save time by avoiding the need for a second coat of Smart Strip – this turned out to be wrong. We had to do a second coat anyway, which liquified what little paint was left and it wiped right off. If we were to do this again, we’d do a first coat of Smart Strip, leave it overnight with the paper, give it a quick scrape without being fussy, then apply a second coat, let it dwell just a few hours, and wipe it off.

When we decided to do a second coat of Smart Strip on everything, we realized we’d need a 3rd gallon. Louisa and I went to Lowe’s, and she inspected the refrigerators to see if any contained an octopus.

Second coat dwelling. After seeing how messy the paper removal/scraping process was, we set up a more comprehensive drop cloth this time. Also, although the Smart Strip is “zero VOC,” we found the smell unpleasant and set up a plastic curtain to seal the fumes out of the rest of the house. (Carole also decided to wear a respirator when dealing with the Smart Strip.)

Second coat on the drawers, stacked up. The door faces had been patched by our contractor with polyester resin before we moved in, and so the stripper hardly took any paint off. It was hard to even scrape the latex off.

Inside mostly wiped up with water. We scrubbed down the cabinets thoroughly, trying to remove all paint/Smart Strip residue.

Drying out the cabinets. We bought a pin type moisture meter; it took a little over a day to come back down to ~12% so that we could prime.

First coat of primer on.

Meanwhile in the garage, we washed the drawers. Each drawer really takes about 1 scotch brite heavy duty sponge – we did not have enough sponges, so it went slower. The bit of stripper left after scraping goops up the scouring side of the sponge pretty quickly.

Second coat of new paint on!

Kids approve. Only the slightest hint of Smart Strip smell remains.

Paint is currently drying on the drawers and doors in the garage. Next step is to put it back together and put the new hardware on.

Contact: Carole Mark
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